Of late, companies have begun adopting job rotation as a way to improve cross-functional expertise. This also applies to IT departments. It is important that the IT team understands core business and the people from core business understand IT. Job rotation aids this cause very well.
Advantages of job rotation
The benefits of job rotation policy far outweigh the efforts that go into implementing it. For employees, the benefits include enrichment of skills, career development, and overall motivation. For CIOs, job rotation helps reduce team attrition, improve effectiveness in cross-functional communication, and enhances team performance and succession planning, thereby improving overall organizational efficiency.
In 2001-02, when the entire industry was in recession, in M&M, Anand Mahindra gave us a target of ’three-two-three‘, that is: ‘tripling the profit’ and ‘doubling the revenue’ in ‘2003’. This target could be achieved only because of our business orientation and the ability to handle challenges, with employee job rotation playing an important role.
Get your policies in place
The size of your company determines the kind of job rotation policies you need to adopt. For large companies, job rotation is a formally planned and implemented process. But for small and mid-sized companies, job rotation is often inevitable as their limited resources and budgets force them to leverage all the skills available across the organization.
An effective way to implement job rotation is by incorporating it into your business strategy. M&M has a talent division which regularly seeks feedback from employees about whether they would like to work outside their domain. If an employee indicates his interest in working outside their domain, he is considered as a potential candidate for job rotation.
Sometimes, after job rotation, some employees may not be comfortable in their new roles. At such times, companies should make an effort to find more suitable roles for these employees. For example, as part of job rotation exercise in M&M, a programmer from the IT team was moved to a pure R&D role in Center of Excellence (CoE) where he couldn’t adjust. An R&D role demanded creative and independent thinking and initiative on the part of the employee; but he was more comfortable with a structured role with pre-defined tasks. Therefore, he was moved into Knowledge Management System (KMS) project, wherein work was more structured, and he started enjoying the job.
Identify the right candidates for job rotation
For job rotation programs to fructify, the selection of candidates must be done meticulously. Scrutinize the following aspects before you zero in on the candidates.
1) The right attitude: For an employee, the attitude of wanting to go beyond one’s allocated area of work is important in the successful implementation of a job rotation policy. The CXOs must also make efforts to instill belief, and nurture an open attitude among employees as to the benefits of job rotation.
To cite from my personal experience, when I was in finance at M&M, since I showed willingness, I was encouraged to simultaneously handle international operations before stepping into that domain. From there on, I took on the assignments of responsibility in the areas of mergers & acquisitions, and then IT. I believe that if one has the right attitude, functional skills can be acquired through efforts.
2) The right aptitude: Having employees with the right aptitude is necessary for any job rotation program to work. For example, at M&M, the head of projects who was involved in implementing Project Harmony―a group-wide initiative bringing together 50 companies of the Mahindra group on a single IT platform covering processes such as finance, HR, manufacturing, etc―was earlier head of accounts. He had an aptitude for IT and showed an interest in working in a new domain, and so he was selected for the role.
3) Expertise in allied domains: Evaluate the domain expertise of the employee, and then outline the areas where he may need support or training to do a wholesome job. For example, when an employee who was involved in implementing Project Harmony was shifted to the IT department from the accounts department, we first outlined the areas where he needed to gain expertise in the new domain. The technology part of the training and induction was given, and he was initially assigned a mentor to show him the ropes.
About the author: V S Parthasarathy, currently group CIO at Mahindra & Mahindra, has worked in several key positions and domains such as CFO, business planning, international operations, policy deployment, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions in the farm equipment sector. Parthasarathy regularly contributes to training and development initiatives as a faculty member in local and regional level programs.
(As told to Anuradha Ramamirtham)